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NFL players facing suspensions to begin 2018 season

Any player worth their salt in the National Football League knows that it is always important to stay on the right side of "The Shield". But as evidenced by recent years, even some of the top players in the NFL have managed to find their way to the outhouse and be saddled with a suspension by the league. The upcoming 2018 season is no different: Besides some who would be suspected as usual problem children, several big names have been suspended by the NFL, from beloved veterans to star playmakers. The latest of these was New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs on Thursday. Edelman is currently appealing the suspension.

In the post-Deflategate world, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have seen their power expand over players to the point where they are judge, jury, and executioner. The past several years have seen high-profile suspensions and ensuing legal fights that followed, such as was the case for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

In the leadup to 2018, the NFL has been fortunate not to be faced with a similar situation. Although the only current player suspensions are for violations of the league's PED policy and the league's policy on substance abuse, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster finds himself in a precarious position stemming from his offseason legal problems. While Foster was absolved of any wrongdoing after his ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence, the NFL is now mulling a suspension for the second-year player after he was hit with a misdemeanor assault weapons charge by the state of California for owning a SIG Sauer 516 with a high-capacity magazine illegal in the state. In spite of that, Foster has yet to be formally disciplined by the league.

Here is a recap of each player to have been suspended for the 2018 offseason, and how much time they will miss.

VONTAZE BURFICT - LB, CINCINNATI BENGALS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Once again, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict finds himself on the wrong side of the NFL's good graces. But this time, it isn't for his on-field conduct: Burfict was slapped with a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. This will be the third year in a row that Burfict is suspended to begin the season. In 2016, Burfict was suspended for the first three games for his role in the Bengals' inexplicable meltdown in the AFC Wild Card Round, and last season was suspended three games for an illegal hit on Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman.

JOSH HUFF - WR, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (SUBSTANCE ABUSE, 2 GAMES)

After being signed to a reserve/future contract by the New Orleans Saints early in the offseason, wide receiver Josh Huff was slapped with a two-game suspension for a violation of both the league's substance abuse and personal conduct policy. Huff spent the 2017 regular season out of football after failing to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster.

Huff has found himself on the wrong end of discipline before, as he was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles midway through the 2016 season for a marijuana arrest.

COREY LIUGET - DT, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

A member of the Chargers since 2011, defensive tackle Corey Liuget was suspended for the first four games of the season for a PED violation. The loss of Liuget is a significant blow to the Chargers' defense, as he presents a solid and reliable threat in the middle between defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

For his NFL career, Liuget has amassed 261 tackles, 22.5 sacks, and five forced fumbles.

JOSH MAURO - DT, NEW YORK GIANTS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Defensive tackle Josh Mauro followed his defensive coordinator from the Arizona Cardinals, James Bettcher, to the New York Giants in free agency. However, Mauro was handed a four-game suspension for a PED violation, postponing his Giants debut until at least Week 5.

After a career year in terms of tackles in 2016, Mauro regressed somewhat in 2017, going from 32 to 22 tackles.

THOMAS DAVIS - LB, CAROLINA PANTHERS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Former Walter Payton Man of the Year and Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is beloved by those in the Carolinas and respected around the league for his tenacity and perseverance. But that wasn't enough to save him from a PED violation, which will cause him to miss the first four games of the 2018 season. Davis had previously announced intentions to retire at season's end.

Davis has become a franchise legend with the Panthers and an inspiration around the league after coming back from three consecutive ACL tears to become an elite linebacker and perennial Pro Bowler late in his career. It remains to be seen how or if Davis' suspension will affect his legacy.

JALEN COLLINS - CB, FREE AGENT (PED VIOLATION, 10 GAMES)

For the fourth time in his career, Jalen Collins faces a major suspension for a PED violation. While he is currently a free agent after being cut by the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, Collins will serve a ten-game suspension to start the season.

Collins' continued PED transgressions have overshadowed his ability to produce. In Collins' last game, Super Bowl LI, he led the Falcons with 11 combined tackles.

MARK SANCHEZ - QB, FREE AGENT (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Quarterbacks aren't often the ensnared party in a PED suspension, but that's exactly the situation free agent quarterback Mark Sanchez finds himself in. The one-time New York Jets star-turned-journeyman backup quarterback will serve a four game suspension for PEDs, though he currently has not signed with any team. Sanchez played for the Chicago Bears in 2017.

KENT TAYLOR - TE, FREE AGENT (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

After spending time on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad in 2017, tight end Kent Taylor was suspended four games by the NFL for a PED violation. Taylor, a former UTEP Miners standout, was released by the Panthers in early May (As reported by Bill Voth of the team website).

KENTRELL BROTHERS - LB, MINNESOTA VIKINGS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Primarily a special teams linebacker for the Vikings, Kentrell Brothers will serve a four-game suspension for a PED violation. Brothers was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 Draft by the Vikings.

In 2017, Brothers appeared in all 16 games for the Vikings, making 13 tackles after registering nine in his rookie year.

VADAL ALEXANDER - G, OAKLAND RAIDERS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Oakland Raiders guard Vadal Alexander has risen from a seventh-round pick to hold his own on the Raiders' offensive line. But a PED violation will now cost him the first four games of the season.

Alexander made four starts for the Raiders in 2017, and it remains to be seen how his status on the roster will be effective with the Raiders making the decision to spend their first-round pick on OT Kolton Miller.

CAYLEB JONES - WR, MINNESOTA VIKINGS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Cayleb Jones has had a more exciting offseason than he had expected or, quite frankly, hoped. In a bizarre incident, Jones grappled with his brother, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Zay, and ultimately saved his life when he prevented him from jumping from an apartment building in a manic episode. Then, Jones was hit with a four game suspension for a PED violation.

While his brother came to the NFL with much fanfare after being drafted in the second round of the 2017 Draft by the Bills, Jones' NFL journey has been decidedly quieter. After failing to make the Philadelphia Eagles' roster in 2016, Jones has spent the past two seasons on-and-off the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad.

AKEEM AYERS - LB, FREE AGENT (UNKNOWN, 4 GAMES)

Linebacker Akeem Ayers, currently without a team, will serve a four-game suspension to begin the 2018 season. The reason for Ayers' suspension was not disclosed in initial reports.

A former second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans, Ayers has bounced around the National Football League, winning Super Bowl XLIX with the New England Patriots before spending time with the St. Louis Rams, Indianapolis Colts, and New York Giants.

MARK INGRAM - RB, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

The New Orleans Saints' rushing attack flat-out bullied opposing defenses in 2017, taking advantage of an elite offensive line and zone-blocking scheme to help Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara go unabated downfield for big chunks of yardage. But Saints head coach Sean Payton will have to adjust after Ingram, his physical, downhill runner, was suspended four games for a PED violation.

Ingram, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2009, has rushed for 1,000+ yards in two consecutive seasons after failing to crack the mark in his first years in the league. Ingram, the Saints' first-round pick in 2011, has made the Pro Bowl twice.

JERRELL FREEMAN - LB, RETIRED (PED VIOLATION, TWO YEARS)

Early in the offseason, linebacker Jerrell Freeman declared that he would retire from the National Football League. Good timing, too: Because Freeman, had he played in 2018, was going to have to serve a two year suspension for repeated PED violations (As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times).

Freeman spent his final two seasons with the Chicago Bears after spending time with the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. Freeman, a former CFL All-Star with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, finishes his NFL career with 597 tackles, 12 sacks, four interceptions, eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns.

DEMETRIUS HARRIS - TE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (SUBSTANCE ABUSE, ONE GAME)

Thanks to a March 2017 arrest for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris will have to sit out the Chiefs' season-opener against the Chargers as he serves a one-game suspension.

Originally an undrafted free agent out of Milwaukee, Harris has settled into a complimentary role behind star Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Last season, Harris caught the first touchdown pass of the NFL season in the Chiefs' season-opening victory over the New England Patriots.

VICTOR BOLDEN - WR, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

Victor Bolden managed to make the San Francisco 49ers' roster as an undrafted free agent, but saw his season come to an end as the 49ers got hot in December due to an ankle injury. Now, Bolden is slated to begin the 2018 season by having to serve a four-game suspension for a PED violation - And has started a competition for a roster spot on the wrong foot.

Bolden was used as a returner on special teams in 2017, recording 419 total return yards.

JULIAN EDELMAN - WR, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (PED VIOLATION, 4 GAMES)

(Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, Getty)
By far the biggest suspension bombshell of the offseason, star New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will miss the first four games of the 2018 season due to a PED violation. Edelman, who was on the comeback trail from a torn ACL he suffered in the 2017 preseason that caused him to miss all of last year, will now be indisposed for the Patriots' early-season run, which includes a rematch of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week Two. Edelman is appealing the suspension.

Edelman has become a noted playmaker for the Patriots of the 2010s, winning both Super Bowl XLIX and Super Bowl LI with the team.

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